Epiphany Achieved

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Thursday, 28 June 2007, 08.30 pm JST

sotd: Monkey Majik + Yoshida Brothers, Change
cotd: FD2 Honda Civic Type-R

Alright. To the P.C.-inclined, close your eyes and hold your breath for a few minutes.

So…I have learned today that I am a retard.

While signing into my Fotki to look over some stuff, I finally saw a link detailing how to link Fotki-hosted pictures onto any blog or other website. Now, this makes sense, right? Even on my part, for the longest time I couldn’t imagine that such an organized, well-put-together site as Fotki couldn’t have a mechanism in place to link pictures into the outbound direction to blogs, by now the most common way to communicate, inform, and share with the world.

Indeed, what I was trying to do months ago, that is to take the URL of my uploaded pictures and plug them into my WordPress posts, ended up not working. At all. What I have learned is that Fotki provides a pre-prepared URL to let the pictures be linked. It takes a couple more links into sections that aren’t obvious up front, but now that I have discovered it, definitely expect to see pictures from here on out (you know, for the 2 or 3 posts I may write before I leave JET).

Moral of the story? There’s no way for me to do things the way I want, in fact I must conform to Fotki’s slightly unusual system of linking. If you’re thinking this sounds pretty Japanese, I do agree, but I doubt Fotki has any Japanese origins or connections. Just my overactive imagination trying to make up for a sad, sad mistake. It’ll take a few more clicks and a lot more time, but hopefully the result should be worth it.


So again, next time: pictures.


See you again!

Super Hyper Total Catch-Up

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Wednesday, 6 June 2007, 03.15 pm JST

sotd: Teriyaki Boyz feat. Kanye West, I Still Love H.E.R.
cotd: GDB Subaru Impreza WRX STI Spec.C Type RA-R

So. I think we can reasonably conclude that my experiment in blogging has failed pretty miserably. [Don’t worry. This isn’t an annoucement that I’m shutting the site down or anything.] But, in my attempts to live Japan up as much as possible, I’ve constantly been anywhere from weeks to months behind in my relating of happenings. Therefore, this post is devoted to a true bullet-point attempt to talk about events since the beginning of year. Check my picture site, since it can describe things better than I can, and imagine that I’m right along side you, offering my boring narration to the visual goodies offered there.

Picking up from where I left off last time:

 January 1: 2007 スタート!

January 4: Back to work. >.<

January 8: Ono Drive.

January 18-January 19: Hyogo JET Mid-Year Conference

January 20: Birthday party in Osaka for Kelly and Brenda.

January 26: Went to Miki. Picked up Kristine and came back to Tamba.

January 27: In Tamba. Yaitei (yakiniku!) with Dylan and Heather.

January 28: Nishiwaki Drive.

February 2: Snow Day!

February 3: Costco trip.

February 4: Hyogo Prefecture High School Volleyball Tournament (in Kobe)

February 10: Spent the afternoon in Sannomiya.

February 11 and February 12: Osaka Auto Messe 2007 (at Intex Osaka on Nanko Island)

February 17 and February 18: Okayama Road Trip

February 24: Went to Osaka. Yodobashi Camera, El Pancho, and the Hyogo AJET “Valentine Party”

February 25: Back to Tamba for Hikami’s graduation ceremony.

February 26: Izushi Day.

February 27-March 10 (roughly): Sickness.

March 11: Taking a ride on the 三木鉄道 (Miki Railway) and exploring Kakogawa.

March 13: Dinner with Laurence at Steak One (first time we had gotten together in a while)

March 17: To Sannomiya for one last romp at Star Child’s.

March 19: Had to reinstall Windows since my computer decided to crash while I had been sick.

March 21-March 25: Nagoya Trip (including my day at Toyota Headquarters)

March 26: We meet Howard in Kobe during his Spring Break trip to Japan

March 29: Dinner with Dylan at Gusto (again, first time in a while)

March 31: Hanshin Tigers vs. Hiroshima Carp at Kyocera Dome Osaka. Dinner in the Okinawan district afterwards.

April 1: Using the Seishun 18 ticket to make stops in the JR Himeji, JR Akashi, and JR Kobe areas.

April 2-April 3: Kristine came up to Tamba outside the normal weekend pattern. Discovered Para Para in Sasayama for the first time.

April 7: Visiting Kyoto (read: JUMBO.) to finish up our Seishun 18 tickets. A dash back to Kobe for Kristine’s school party. I got to go to the nijikai immediately after.

April 8: Kyoto again: the Imperial Palace, Maruyama Park, and the Kyoto Botanical Garden (sakura light-up).

April 9: First day of the new school year. 着任式 (ceremony to welcome new teachers and office staff), 始業式 (ceremony to mark the beginning of a new term), 入学式 (ceremony to welcome the new first-year students).

April 10: 離任式 (ceremony to say goodbye to the retiring and transferred teachers and office staff), 歓送迎会 (party to say goodbye to the departing teachers and office staff and welcome the incoming teachers and office staff) in Kaibara.

April 12: Dinner with Laurence at Sukiya.

April 13: Went to Miki to pick up Kristine, back to Tamba for a school party.

April 14: After stopping at youme town, we visit the Harima Chuo Park and then head back to Miki.

April 21: Stayed in Miki during the day, but at night drove to Seishin (Nishi-ku, Kobe) for the first time and had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant.

April 22: Drove to the Aeon Kobe Kita Shopping Center. Stayed there all day. ALL DAY.

April 23: Took a nap after work for three hours. It was nice.

May 3: Cleaned up almost all of Kristine’s house in one go. Don’t think I have any pictures though.

May 6: Went to Ono Saty for the first time. Confirmed our fuddy-duddyness.

May 11: Kristine came up to Tamba again. Enjoyed Para Para again.

May 12: Had to go to work for PTA day. That night: Maison Ikkoku.

May 13: Drive through Tamba, Fukuchiyama, Asago, Kanzaki District, and eventually ending up at Ono Saty.

May 14: 代休. Spent it in Miki.

May 16: Met Dylan at McDonald’s and had one of the most important conversations since I’ve been in Japan. Details to appear on this site soon.

May 18: 歓送迎会 for outgoing second-year and new third-year teachers. Don’t try to understand it. Spent the rest of the night at Mihara sensei’s bodacious pad.

May 19: Drove down to Miki, and then together went to Costco. I also got to see a Japanese version of Carrefour for the first time.

May 24: Met Dylan at Sukiya for dinner. More important discussion.

May 25: Kristine came up to Tamba again. Dinner at Para Para!

May 26-May 27: Anniversary Road Trip to Amanohashidate. Overnight stay at a ridiculous ryokan. Drove back through Yosano Town (京都府与謝野町) and found a couple more 道の駅 (Michi no ekis? Michis no eki?)

May 28-May 30: Recontracting Conference for all JETs in Western Japan, held at the Kobe Portopia Hotel.

June 2: Drove to Seishin again. Spent the day at Plenty Mall. Came back to Miki for dinner at sushi, which we haven’t had for a while.

June 3: Dinner BBQ at Jason’s house, followed by Sunday night karaoke at Dolphin.

June 4: Indulged in a nice three-hour nap after work.

June 6: Today.

Man, one need only look at April 9 and April 10 to realize why nothing ever gets accomplished here.


Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Tuesday, 13 March 2007, 12.00 pm JST

sotd: 柴崎コウ, actuality
cotd: TU31 Nissan Presage 250 Highway Star J

In English, there is no succinct way to explain the concept expressed by the 4-character kanji phrase 年末年始. This is not to say that I or others do not understand what it means. Upon sight alone, the meaning is obvious. With only the slightest knowledge of kanji, we can see that it means year-end-year-begin, and if you can read them, you will see that this phrase says ねんまつねんし (nen matsu nen shi). When, exactly, it begins and when, exactly, it ends is not clearly defined, but to render it in English, we must say “the end of the year and the beginning of the year.” Two different years, of course, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year. In English, 11 words (13 in my additional explanation). In Japanese, 4 characters, and 2 of them are the same character. This conciseness, I believe, is symbolic of the importance that the Japanese attach to the coming and beginning of a new year.

The beginning period of a new year is full of 新年の挨拶 (new year’s greetings), 年賀状 (new year’s cards), 初詣 (new year’s prayers, lit. first prayer), 初夢 (new year’s dreams, lit. first dream), 初日 (first sunrise), etc. etc.

For Kristine and me, there was somewhere between little to none of that. -_-‘ Having been exhausted physically and financially from the Tokyo and Kansai components of our winter vacation, we spent the last hours of December 31, and then January 1, 2, and 3 (the 4th brought the resumption of work) in almost complete rest.

BUT, there were high points too. December 31, the last day of the year, meant the live broadcast of the NHK紅白歌合戦 (the Red and White Song Contest, or more simply, Kohaku). Yes, LIVE on NHK, as in, not a couple days delayed on KIKU-TV. It was amazing. To prepare, we gathered up food and drink from the Miki Co-op, including a whole party platter, came home, warmed up food, set up shop, and Kohaku’d the night away. Granted, we took bathroom breaks and got food and did other such things during the enka numbers, but all in all it was an enjoyable show.

On New Year’s Day, we mostly stayed in, relaxed, made curry for dinner (初カレー?), and watched more new year television.

Fast forward to the 4th, when it was finally time for me to return to Tamba, and indeed, to work. It was almost a disappointment. I think the vice principal, Taniguchi sensei, and myself were the only individuals present. Everyone else probably took holidays to extend their New Year’s vacations, I imagine. At any rate, it was pretty quiet in the 職員室. The second day back, Friday the 5th, marked a marginal increase in the amount of teachers present, and it also meant that I would be climbing a mountain. No, really. With no warning whatsoever, the vice principal told me that we would be going up 城山 (Shiroyama, home to the the ruins of the old Kuroi Castle 黒井城 which used to exist in this area). And we did, me and him plus Ido sensei and three of the 上陸 (track and field) girls. Once to the top (I’ll skip over the unbearable agony that came in between), I had fairly impressive views of the valley in which my sleepy town lies. Once down, I went to lunch with some fellow teachers and then left early to head to Miki. Pretty much as soon as Kristine was finished with work, we hopped on the train and rode into Sannomiya, where after some confusion and a few calls, we met up with Azumi, one of my comrades from the Fall 2005 CET Beijing Language Program. Because, you know, I like reunions. We talked over dinner at the Thai restaurant until we had to go back to the station so that she could go home, and then afterwards Kristine and I went to Tokyu Hands. For what, I don’t remember. Then we went home.

After a pretty quiet weekend at home, on Monday the 8th (成年の日, Coming of Age Ceremony Day–yay random holidays), Kristine and I did the first of what I hope to be many ドライブ trips. Essentially a katakana-ized version of the English word “drive,” a ドライブ can cover any reasonable distance and amount of time and would be roughly equivalent to what we call a road trip. For this one we stayed reasonably close, using a guidebook I had picked up earlier from Kristine’s local bookstore. This was to be our day to explore 北播磨 (Kita-Harima, the part of Hyogo north of Kobe and south of Tamba, which includes Miki). Most of what we saw was in Ono City (兵庫県小野市), which borders Miki to the north. Our first stop came at the site of castle ruins, Kanatsurube Castle, a smallish minor(?) castle in the middle of Ono. After some wandering around and lots of pictures of Ono, which unremarkably looks the same as every part of this area, we moved to the Jodoji Temple, which is not only a national treasure on its own, but also contains a mini-henro. The 遍路 (henro) is a very traditional Buddhist pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku which takes the pilgrim through 88 temples after the pattern of Kobo Daishi, who first brought the Shingon sect of Buddhism to Japan (specifically, Mount Koya in Wakayama) from China. I know personally two people who have completed the pilgrimage, both on foot, no less. You can imagine my surprise when I searched for henro via Google and found this interesting article. Yeah, I know him! And chances are, some of you do too! The other one posted his results here. Anyway, all said and done we took about half an hour to complete the mini course and then were off for lunch.

Located at one of the intersections along Route 175, I had always seen そろばん亭 (Soroban-Tei, soroban = abacus), but had never ventured inside, not knowing whether it was a restaurant or a meeting hall of some kind. But this was to be its day. And a good thing, for it turned out to be a katsu restaurant, and man was I in the mood for some good katsu. After this, we took a romp through the ひまわりの丘公園 (Himawari no Oka Park), but soon gave up on account of the fierce winds and mostly child-age population. After this we stopped at the Ono Public Library and browsed around for a couple hours, eventually emerging into the dusk of that chilly January day and heading back towards Miki. Yay ドライブ. An auspicious start to what I hope becomes much in the way of touring around Japan.

And then the third semester began at school. (Third Semester? What Strange Place is this?)

In Which Tajima Rocks My Socks, or, In Which I Finally Break Chronological Order

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 10.00 am JST

sotd: Move, Wanna Fly To Be Wild
cotd: RR5 Honda Elysion Prestige SZ

Despite having the best cellular phone handsets and some of the best cars in the world (two things which have undoubtedly consumed a lot of my attention in the last few years), sometimes I still wonder why I packed up and left the comforts and perfect tropical climate of home to settle my ass in Japan, what with its four seasons, ignorant people, and highly discriminatory social infrastructure.

Well, let me just put it out there that days like yesterday go great lengths to reaffirm my conviction that coming here is “worth it.”

After Sunday’s 2-hour-long graduation ceremony in the freezing school gymnasium which was basically just like a normal school assembly in format and rather like a funeral in appearance (really, we could try to pick a theme other than Men In Black), Monday brought 代休 (daikyu, the beloved “substitution holiday”) and the day that Taniguchi sensei and I would Go To Izushi.

At roughly 9:30, Taniguchi sensei picked me up in front of school (me having gone outside at 9:20 to get a drink from the vending machine), where we were immediately off to the Co-op confectionary to get some pastries for the Ido residence (and the inhabitants therein). At about 10:20, after some heavy fiddling with the Peugeot’s navigation system, we were off . . . to the north. The furthest north in Hyogo I’d been heretofore was Aogaki, and even then, it’s still part of Tamba. You can imagine how much I feared for my body warmth. Nevertheless, we made our way to Izushi Town in Toyooka City (兵庫県豊岡市出石町), where we finally arrived at the Ido residence (construction completed, August 2006) sometime before 12. After having coffee inside and me no longer wanting to go back to my crappy apartment, Ido sensei took the two of us to partake of Izushi’s most recognized export, 出石そば (Izushi soba), which is eaten in servings on small dishes and dipped into a sauce of egg, green onions, yamaimo (mountain potato), and shoyu, instead of the usual sauce, which is just shoyu. After this, we walked around the main part of town, which is a traditional 下町 (shitamachi, or town below the castle), and includes two famous highlights, the 辰鼓櫓 (Shinkorou, a famous Meiji-period clock tower, and either the first or second oldest of such clock towers in Japan), and 出石城 (Izushi Castle, the only authorized castle in the Tajima area after the one castle per area directive of 1615). After a short stopover at the Ido house, we were then off in the direction of Kinosaki Onsen (兵庫県豊岡市城崎町). Along the way, we tried to get into the Hyogo Prefectural Homeland for the Oriental White Stork (兵庫県立コウノトリの郷公園), but alas it was closed due to scares of bird flu. What storks have to do with chickens I know not, but oh well. Next time. Side note: the Oriental White Stork (コウノトリ) is also the official bird of Hyogo Prefecture. After this, we passed by and stopped at 玄武洞 (Genbudo, a natural cave formation along the side of the Maruyama River) and then finally headed for the hot springs.

Famous as it is, there is no one bath house called “Kinosaki Onsen.” Rather, it is simply the name of the area, with tons of individual bath houses scattered throughout the town. Kinosaki is simply the name of the town (formerly self-governing, it is now under administrative jurisdiction of Toyooka City, as a result of complicated mergers and dissolutions of districts, towns, and villages, a giant geographic and political reorganization process started a few years ago by Mr. Koizumi), and the bath houses are part of it. Anyway, I digress. We stepped into (though not back-to-back, for fear that we all might melt) 柳湯 and 一の湯, two of the more famous ones. (Though who really knows, they’re all famous, of course.) Emerging into the twilight of northern Hyogo sometime after 6, we left the car park, which at an astounding 200 yen for a major national tourist area almost gave me cause to faint, and were back to the 井戸家.

Once there, we were treated to a home-coooked (home-prepared, I guess) sukiyaki dinner, complete with Tajima’s other famous food, 但馬牛 (Tajima beef, which (trivia alert!) is actually the true name and origin of so-called Kobe beef). After stuffing ourselves full of prime meat and fresh vegetables and then cramming in the pastries I had bought in the morning, Taniguchi sensei and I were back off to Tamba, trying once again to navigate the reverse trip, only without light. We still managed to get back in about an hour.

And that concluded the best day in Japan in my recent memory. Next time, back to old news.

In Which Jamie Visits

Friday, 23 February 2007

Friday, 23 February 2007, 03.00 pm JST

sotd: エイジアエンジニア, 一人のメリークリスマス
cotd: L235S Daihatsu Esse Custom

So after that lovely highway night bus ride through which we were mostly sleeping, we arrived at Hankyu Umeda Station at 8 in the morning, with a couple hours to wait with all our stuff. Why Umeda and not back to Sannomiya again, you ask? Well, mostly because fresh off our trip to Tokyo we were scheduled to meet with Jamie who would be staying at Kristine’s place for a few days while we showed her around Kansai a bit. Now, what might that involve?

-Lots of catching up and discussion of work/students, etc.; comparisons and contrasts between Hyogo and Fukuoka.

-Taking Jamie to Himeji to see, of course, Himeji Castle.

-Taking Jamie to Akashi to see around the station and eat at Bombay.

-Taking Jamie to Nara to see Nara Park, Todaiji, and of course, deer.

-Taking Jamie to Osaka to see Namba/Shinsaibashi and experience Cafe Muji. (That last one was actually a first for us too.)

-Taking Jamie to Kobe to see our nearest major city. (Well, actually, Kristine mostly took Jamie around Kobe while I waited around at home for Tokyo Banana.)

-Seeing Jamie off at Umeda Station since she could take a bus from there to go to Itami Airport. 😦

Pictures are here, here, and here.


Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Tuesday, 20 February 2007, 11.40 am JST

sotd: BoA, Winter Love
cotd: GWS191 Lexus GS450h Version L

And then the second semester of school finished. Which meant we were free to go somewhere . . . as long as we took vacation days to do it. Since leaving Japan was already out of the question, mostly due to cost constraints, we went to the only other natural place to go: Tokyo, to see the big city and reunite with as many friends as possible. We gave ourselves five days to be there by leaving on an overnight bus from Kobe on Friday, December 22 and arriving in Tokyo on the morning of Saturday, December 23, staying and cramming in as much as we could do until Wednesday, December 27 when we would take an overnight bus back to Osaka where we would meet Jamie on the morning of Thursday, December 28 and be with her until Sunday, December 31. (But that’s for an altogether separate post.)

As they say, rest is for the weak.

Friday, December 22 / Saturday, December 23

After work on Friday, which involved no classes as it was the last day of school and therefore reserved strictly for the 終業式 (end-class-ceremony), I quickly gathered up and packed the rest of the things I needed and then hit the road for Miki. Once there, I helped Kristine get the rest of her things together, stepping out briefly to run and grab us a light dinner from McDonald’s, and helping ourselves to part of the christmas cake I got via my school’s food processing section. It’s the way to go, folks. Don’t be fooled by those nonsense pamphlets at Lawson. After a 50-minute ride into Kobe which seems to be getting shorter the longer we live here (or it could just be me WANTING it to be shorter), we waddled over to the Sannomiya Bus Terminal and . . . waited. At 10:30 we were off, in a JR bus which was sadly much more cramped than the Keihan buses I’ve taken before.

At roughly 7:15 am, we arrived at JR Shinjuku Station, ready for our first vacation in Japan. After a stop at Starbucks, we got on the Yamanote Line from Shinjuku to Ikebukuro, then transferring to the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line to head to Edogawabashi Station, where we emerged from Exit 3 and crossed the street, passed Hanamizubashi (華水橋!) and arrived at the Endo residence. Trust me, it’s a lot simpler than it sounds. After breakfast and freshening up time, we left and got back on the subway, heading for Chiyoda-ku (千代田区), the physical and political center of Tokyo City, home to the Imperial Palace and many of the national government facilities. Today, we would be going into the palace to experience 天皇誕生日. Normally, the interior grounds of the palace are closed to the public (read: commoners) except for two days: January 1 and December 23, the latter being Emperor Akihito’s birthday. Lucky for us that we could catch an overnight bus to Tokyo on December 22. I dare say, the timing couldn’t have worked out better. Before going into the palace grounds, we met up with one Christopher Killmer, back in Tokyo at his family’s house for winter break.

It was quite the event, with as much shouts of “Banzai!” and waving of paper Japanese flags as one can imagine. The Emperor’s speech was short and simple, thanking everyone for coming and wishing them health and good fortune in the upcoming year. On a side note, he speaks slower than any Japanese person I’ve ever met. I’m wondering if it’s his special speech voice, or his, you know, normal voice. After the event was over, Kristine and I and Killmer walked through the grounds of the palace and came out on the east side, perfectly placed to wander over to a rather more controversial location: Yasukuni Shrine.

After wandering around the Yasukuni grounds and having seen more than a sufficient number of scary black communist vans and similarly scary middle-aged suit-wearing Japanese men, we were off, heading back around the palace and finding ourselves at the beginning of Aoyama-dori, which cuts straight through one of the poshest areas in Tokyo. We three stopped at McDonald’s for a much-needed lunch and then split up, as Killmer needed to head home. We were headed in the direction of Shibuya.

Once at Shibuya, we took in the wonder that is the front side of JR Shibuya Station, took some pictures with Hachiko, and met Mari! After some walking around the Shibuya area, we stopped for food and conversation at a cafe that turned out to have some pretty awful service (for Japan standards). After parting back at Shibuya Station, Kristine and I headed back towards Ikebukuro where we waited for the Endos to return from a house party. Once that happened, we reconvened back at the 遠藤家 and took a taxi over to La Qua, a shopping/dining/entertainment complex across the street from the Tokyo Dome. We were in fact here to celebrate the opening of a new Hub, as the Endo children are acquaintances of the chain’s owner, which is a good or bad thing depending how you look at it. Considering the first drink on the menu is always absinthe, I’m leaning towards the bad side. Killmer also made it out and joined us for the time being. Pictures are on Fotki if you haven’t seen them already. After the festivities, half the group (which we were part of) took a taxi back, while Taka, Killmer, and Kaz walked back to the house. I’ll leave out Kaz’s head-butting incident for the sake of brevity. If you want to know, you can ask him yourself. Everybody crashed soon after and even Killmer stayed the night.

Sunday, December 24

The next day we got a not-too-early start and headed out towards Harajuku to see a couple attractions. They turned out to be half-success-half-failures. The first was to find the Nodame Cafe, a time-limited themed restaurant based on the popular Fall 2006 Fuji TV drama Nodame Cantabile. We ended up finding the exact place, but learned that December 24 and December 25 (also the airing date of the final episode) were completely booked up and that we couldn’t get in. Bummer. So we commiserated over an Italian lunch down the street. Afterwards, we headed to the new Audi Forum Tokyo showroom in an attempt to see the hottest car of 2008, the new Audi R8 sportscar. I had already read that coinciding with the opening of the Audi Forum was the first showing of the R8 in Japan, but when we got there, no R8 was to be found. In the spot where it used to sit was a much lowlier but still lovely TT. Oh well. Not to be deterred, we roamed through Harajuku’s famous Takeshita-dori and upon emerging from the backside, experienced the KDDI Designing Studio. Never mind that we are NTT DoCoMo customers. After playing with all the free toys in the KDDI building, we headed back through Takeshita, stopping for crepes and kind of unexpectedly meeting Killmer there, we headed back for the Christmas Eve Wine Tasting Party at the 遠藤家. See pictures.

Monday, December 25 [クリスマス]

After waking up pretty late, we waited with Taka for Aki to arrive, and then went to lunch at a nearby udon shop. Not having any very specific plans, we went with Aki out to Asakusa to see the famous Sensoji, and walk through Nakamise-dori and some of the other shopping streets. At the Asakusa station of the still-brand-new Tsukuba Express, we parted, with Aki heading for Ibaraki and us heading one station in to the terminus at Akihabara Station. From there, we saw didn’t see much of the typical Akihabara fare, as it was a regular working day at approximately twilight hours. (Twilight and Akihabara in the same reference! Points if you can figure out what in the world I’m referring to.) After a couple laps of walking up and down Chuo-dori, we stopped in for a Christmas Pepper Lunch and then got on the subway to Ginza, home to the most expensive real estate in Japan. By this time, it was already dark, and we mostly enjoyed the lights and traffic of downtown Tokyo as we headed towards Marunouchi and the Tokyo Station area. Despite getting lost not a few times, we eventually made our way back to Yurakucho and got on the subway back for Edogawabashi.

Tuesday, December 26

After another mid-morning start, we ventured out into the worst rain of the year (seriously, I swear it was approaching typhoon status) to head to Odaiba, everyone’s favorite artificial island. After getting on the New Transit Yurikamome at Shimbashi (which is heavily featured in the first five minutes of Supli, btw), we crossed over the Rainbow Bridge and got off directly in front of the Fuji Television Headquarters Building. Once inside, we enjoyed to our hearts’ content the sights and sounds of some of Fuji’s most famous shows, including Kristine’s favorite Chibi Maruko-chan, and our encounter with the Fuji mascot dressed up as a samurai to promote a period drama. After we were Fuji-ed out, we got back on the Yurikamome and got off directly in front of the Toyota Mega Web. Highlights included the Lexus corner and the recently debuted Toyota Blade. I already know I’m going to need to go back sometime, as I didn’t have enough time to see the historic car showcase, as well as experience the Ride One attraction (though that was also on account of my not having my international driver’s license at the time). By about 5:30 we hightailed it off the island to head back to Edogawabashi to meet the Endos for a pretty authentic Chinese dinner.

Wednesday, December 27

On our last day in Tokyo, Kristine and I and Taka headed out towards Ochanomizu Station to meet Killmer and the one and only Takako Kamata! Having last seen her in December 2004 when I stayed at her family’s house during my first trip to Tokyo, it was a reunion waiting to happen. We immediately headed for lunch at the place previously decided by Taka(ko), the Mu’u Mu’u Diner. Loco mocos in Japan…wow. Afterwards we stopped at the always quirky Village Vanguard and saw the Confucian Yushima Seido, walked over to Kanda Myojin, and then headed back to Shinjuku. Emerging at Takashimaya Times Square, we walked over and across the tracks to discover Japan’s first Krispy Kreme Donuts…12 days old and with a 2-hour plus wait. Great. In the meantime, we had to say goodbye to Takako but a little while later met with Aki again and Yuki at the station. In our search to find food, we ended up at one of Shinjuku’s many 居酒屋 (izakaya)…you know the ones with the guys who stand on street corners with their headsets, advertising to groups to come to their particular store. After this and a couple pictures later, we headed back to Ikebukuro, where Kristine and I were in a literal scramble to find Tokyo Banana before (a) we had to get on the bus and (b) before all the department stores closed for the night. Luckily we did, and had it shipped ahead of us back to Hyogo. Then it was back to Taka’s house to pack up everything and say our goodbyes, and then we were on the Tokyo Metro for one last time to head to Shinjuku and wait for our JR Highway Bus back to Kansai. After lots of waiting and a few delays, we were on the bus–in the extra comfortable seats, no less–and back to whence we came.

10 minutes. 1000 yen.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Monday, 22 January 2007, 03.00 pm JST

sotd: Mr.Children, しるし
cotd: JZX110 Toyota Verossa VR25

Oh no! I’m behind again! Good thing it’s the end of the semester. (Edit: beginning of a new semester.) Time for me to recap everything post-Wii.


So on Friday, December 8, despite being in the middle of the final test period (Thursday the 7th, Friday the 8th, Monday the 11th, and Tuesday the 12th), my school had its long-awaited and much-heralded End of the Year Party (忘年会, forget-year-party). And it wasn’t even in Tamba. No, we left the inaka City of Tamba to make our way to the Royal Hotel Hill Fukchiyama (sic) in Fukuchiyama City, Kyoto Prefecture. Since it happened roughly a month ago, here’s a summary replay of the whole shindig:

1. A huge buffet dinner.
2. A lottery with a prize for each teacher and office staff member. (I hate to imagine the budget for this event.) The teacher sitting next to me won the 160GB DVD Recorder. I got leg warmers. >.<
3. Afterparty at a スナック with the enka-singing-age male teachers plus the vice-principal plus the principal.
4. Free (er, included) one-night hotel stay, with each person getting their own room.
5. Free (er, included) access to the hotel’s on-site onsen.

And all within a half-hour drive from my apartment! Good times were had by all and I am already looking forward to next year’s party. ^_^

12月9日:Bombay Christmas Party

On the afternoon of the ninth, after returning from Fukuchiyama and making a pit stop in Tamba, it was off to Miki by car and then Akashi by train/bus for the annual Hyogo AJET (website not updated) Christmas Dinner Party Spectacular (ok, I embellished that a little) at the best Indian restaurant in Japan, Bombay. For . . . okay, well I don’t remember how much it was, but that’s not so important . . . we were treated to all-you-can-eat Indian food and a bunch of JETs we didn’t know. (Our compatriots Heather and Dylan couldn’t make it on account of Heather’s not feeling well at the time.) Either way, it was fun, delicious, and complete with Bollywood movie clips and music videos! Afterwards the crowd headed to a gaijintastic bar but Kristine and I, being Kristine and I, dug out and headed back to Miki.


The next day got off to an early start as Kristine and I made the long trek from Miki through Kobe and Osaka to Hirakata, finally coming to the end of our journey at my favorite train station in Japan, Keihan Hirakatashi Station. After heading downstairs from the platform, we met Chelsey Yap and promptly headed to find lunch. We headed behind KFC to dine at a yakiniku restaurant, of which the name escapes me. No matter though. Either way, it was good. After some walking around the station, we got on a bus to 山田池公園 (Yamadaike Park), where Kristine and I got off and Chelsey continued on in order to return to her host family’s house. Kristine and I walked almost through the entire park, which is funny since I had never even so much as been to the place when I was at Kansai Gaidai. (Oops.) After hopping on the bus back to the front entrance of Kansai Gaidai University, I treated (if you can call it that) Kristine to her first-ever meal at Bikkuri Ramen. 180 yen (189 yen tax in) for a bowl of ramen. Not gourmet dining by any means, but that’s probably why it’s across the street from the main gate of a major four-year university. Afterwards we headed back to the station, stopping in at Vivre and the bookstore I used to go to several times a week.

Soon after that, we headed back, making a stop at Kinokuniya Umeda Station along the way.


For the next weekend, we decided to do something we would later vow never to do again: view the Kobe Luminarie on a Saturday evening. For a rather visual explanation of why this is probably a bad idea for an outing, just see the first couple of pictures here. Nevertheless, we managed to get a number of excellent things done in Kobe that day:

1. Viewing the Luminarie. (Okay, okay, maybe a little too self-explanatory?)
2. Me getting my first haircut in Japan. (Thank you QB House for finally offering a service that is cheaper in Japan than in the States.)
3. Experiencing the holy goodness that is Star Child’s. (Claiming to have the best burgers in Kobe, this is actually not true. In reality, they have the best burgers in all of Japan.)

12月17日:Shopping in Miki

So the next day, Sunday the 17th, was spent staying in Miki to get some things done that we needed to do before we would, in succession, go to Tokyo and then come back to host Jamie for a few days. This mostly involved setting up one of Kristine’s rooms in her apartment as a guest room. This took us to the friendly neighborhood O-Joyful and included buying, among other things, buying a twin size pipe bed, having to cart it back to Kristine’s place by kei truck (one of many first experiences I’ve had by living in Japan, and certainly not the last), and then spending some time to fully assemble it. There were other places we went and other things we did that day, but none of them quite top driving the kei truck.

For next time: an 8000 yen bus ride to Tokyo. (Yikes! Did they even survive? Stay tuned!)